Thursday, 13 April 2017

Yoga anatomy bites - knee health

The knee joint is where the tibia (shin bone) meets the femur (thigh bone) and the patella (knee cap) lies in front of the femur.  It is a hinge joint, one of the strongest in the body which enables you to walk, run etc.

Last week we saw how misalignment in the foot can affect the knee joint.  A healthy knee joint also depends on hip stability.  This in turn depends on the muscles of the core, the hip abductors (the muscles that lift the thigh out to the side and stabilise you in standing balances - they include the glutes) and the glutes which also allow your hips to move in every direction. The innermost thigh muscle (the vastus medialis oblique) is also key to hip stability and if the rectus femoris, another quadricep muscle is tight, this inhibits kneecap mobility which in turn affects alignment of the knee.

The following poses will help stabilise the hips by strengthening and stabilising the muscles of the core, hip abductors, and glutes.

The poses are not intended for practice if you have knee issues.

Pigeon Pose -  from all fours  bring your right knee to your right wrist and lower your hips, sliding your left leg back. Take your right foot towards the left side of the mat.  If you are super flexible, you may be able to bring your shin parallel to the short edge of the mat but do not strain.  Keep your shoulders over your hips and centred so you do not lean to one side and square your hips to the short edge of the mat. Tucking the toes of your back foot and pressing into your toes can help square the hips. This is also helpful if you have a tendency to get cramp in the back foot. Not comfortable? Try placing a cushion under your left thigh and another under your right buttock.  Repeat second side then take a Child's pose.

High Lunge - come into Downward Facing Dog, breathe in and bring your right foot forward between your hands, keep your back heel lifted and making sure your feet remain at hip distance.  On your next breath in, take your arms up.  Hold for a few breaths then breathe out to bring your hands back down to the mat and return to Downward Facing Dog.  Repeat second side.

Tree - stand in the middle of the mat and take your weight into your left foot.  Find a drishti, a gaze point then take your right foot to your left ankle, shin or reach down and bring your foot to your left thigh (do not have the right foot against the left knee).  Breathe in and take your arms up.  Hold for several breaths if possible then breathe out to lower.  Repeat second side.

Half Lord of the Fishes - sit with the legs outstretched on a block or a blanket. Bend the right knee  and draw the leg close into the chest. Take the right foot to the outside of the left thigh. If you can keep the right sit bone and right foot grounded bring the left foot to the right hip, otherwise keep the left leg extended.  Take your right hand to the mat behind your right hip or to the block on which you are seated. Breathe in and lengthen your spine. Breathe out and bending  your left elbow, take your left arm to the outside of your right leg, palm facing forward (in the traffic stopping position).  Alternatively, for beginners, hug your right leg into your body with the left hand.  Work with the breath to deepen the twist.  Inhale, lengthen through the crown of your head, exhale start to twist from the abdomen, then the ribcage, then the shoulders, keeping the chin in line with the breast bone.  As you hold the twist, work with your breath.  With each inhale lengthen, with each exhale, you may have room to twist a little more.  If you have a good twist through the spine, slowly turn your head to look over the right shoulder. Come out of the pose in the same way as you went into it.  Inhale lengthen, exhale release the neck, the shoulder, the ribcage and finally the abdomen. Repeat second side.  

You might also like:-
'Protect your knees in floor poses'
'Protecting your knees in Hero pose'

Please also see:-
'Yoga anatomy bites- flexion and extension'
'Yoga anatomy bites - adduction and abduction'
'Yoga anatomy bites- internal rotation and external rotation'
'Yoga anatomy bites - hamstring strength vs flexibility
'Yoga anatomy bites - foot flexibility and stability'

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